Whilst waiting for the kettle to boil to make up our flask of coffee, I looked out across our circle of huts. Plenty of small branches covered the grass together with large puddles of water somehow made it feel a very different day from yesterday. The temperature was 19 degrees but the dampness made the air feel much cooler. As we drove out to the camp gate, we saw a large tree had been brought down close to the petrol station and we heard from a guide later in the day that one of the kitchens had been struck by lightning and was out of action.
Driving slowly along the Orpen road, herds of Zebra and Wildebeest grazed alongside each other. Small groups of Waterbuck were spotted and the usual pod of Hippos were swimming at Nsemani Dam. Everywhere somehow felt quiet as though the wildlife had sought shelter from the storm last night and were yet to re-emerge. Vultures posed in the trees.
and the Kudu were back browsing.
After a quick look at the map we decided to try our luck on the S39 as it seemed ages since we had driven along this road. Our first spot was an Hyena, perhaps on its way back to a warm den. The smaller birds were conspicuous by their absence but the large ones were certainly out and about. Lots of Vultures – White-headed, Lappet-faced, White-backed and Hooded.
Amazing to see such a mix this morning. Marabou Storks were also keeping them company.
Something else to enjoy after the rains were the many scents as we passed – ginger, aniseed, floral and cabbage. Not sure what gave rise to the last ‘perfume’ but for sure this is what we could smell. Several Eagles were in the trees close to the river but it was difficult to confirm whether they were Tawny or Steppe as they were well hidden amongst the branches. We could definitely recognise a pair of Giant Eagle Owls though – one remained in the tree but its mate was on the ground quite close to us.
A trio of Giraffe stretched out along the track
in contrast to their much smaller companions of a Tortoise and a Giant Land Snail,
then more Kudu
and two Nyala.
At Timbavati Picnic spot we stopped for a comfort break and enjoy our first coffee of the morning. The riverbed was very quiet but a Bataleur soared overhead and a Red-billed Hornbill tried its luck for a dropped crumb or two by the seats.
Back on the road towards Ratelpan but before the S127 road branches off, there is a (usually) small river crossing with a pool of water right next to the road. The rains had obviously increased the water here and we spent a good while in the company of 11 Yellow-billed Storks,
Grey Heron and a large Crocodile.
As the crossing here is quite narrow, we needed to move on as more traffic reached us and we had both some nice shots of the Storks. Continuing north the river bed had plenty of flowing water and large pod of Hippos kept us amused
with Egyptian Geese and a Crocodile on the sandbank. At Ratelpan Hide several smaller birds were about – Black-winged Stilt,
Sandpiper, Grey Heron,
Tawny-flanked Prinia, Sunbird, Common Waxbill
and more Grey Heron and Crocodiles
further from the bank.
Once back in the car we turned towards the main tar road to find more Giraffe, Wildebeest, Zebra and a Steenbok. Interestingly we had not seen a single Elephant this morning and knowing how they really do not like electrical storms, we could only assume they had sought shelter and kept away from the open savannah area north of Satara.
At one spot along the road we found a large circle of burnt earth – we decided it must have been struck by lightning last night and kept burning until the heavy rain extinguished the flames. Turning right into the camp road we pulled alongside another YR and it was our pleasure to meet Granjan.
We intended to eat earlier today as we had finally got a Sunset drive booked. Despite the protestations of the Reception staff a few days earlier, there were sufficient people to fill two trucks this afternoon. We were lucky enough to go out with Irvine (Irwin?) who has moved up to Satara from Lower Sabie. We have been on drives with him several times in the past and were surprised to see him here. He had decided he knew the Lower Sabie area so well that he needed a new challenge and thus moved northwards. It was a very interesting ‘guest list’ on our truck – all Kruger regulars so good spotters and very knowledgeable. One group were guides and rangers from the USA, mostly working in Yellowstone Park I believe.
After the usual safety check, etc. Irwin noted that the area had been very quiet that day as a result of the previous storm and that no particular animal was guaranteed.
Never was a truer word spoken on this drive and these words would be recalled on every drive we did during this trip. However, as is so often the case in the Park, we may not have found a single cat (apart from some eyes which he thought might have been Serval) but a very eclectic mix of wildlife were spotted by the time we returned to camp – Impala and lambs, Zebra, Wildbeest, Bull Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Waterbuck, a veritable journey of Giraffes (almost too many to count),
several small-spotted Genets,
Lesser Bushbabies, Red-lipped Snake,
Common Egg-eater Snake, Slender Mongoose, Steenbok, Common Duikers, Red-crested and Black-bellied Korhaans, Hyena den with pups,
Brown Snake Eagle, Warthogs, 2 Black-backed Jackals, Fireflies and Scrub Hares. What a great night!